The country voted to reverse the ban on female genital cutting

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Eight civilians were killed Monday in “reckless” air strikes by Pakistan’s military in the border regions of Afghanistan, prompting Afghan forces to retaliate against Pakistani military outposts, Taliban officials said.
Pakistan’s Air Force fighter JF-17 fighter jets fly past during the multinational naval exercise ‘AMAN-23’ in the Arabian Sea near Pakistan’s port city of Karachi on February 13, 2023.
Advertising Read moreBorder tensions between the two countries have risen since the Taliban government seized power in 2021, with Islamabad claiming militant groups are carrying out regular attacks from Afghanistan.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Pakistani aircraft “bombed civilian homes” in Khost and Paktika provinces near the border with Pakistan at around 3:00 am (2230 GMT Sunday), adding that all of the dead were women and children.
Afghanistan’s defence ministry said its border forces retaliated in response to the airstrikes, targeting Pakistan’s military points along the disputed border with “heavy weapons”.
“The country’s defense and security forces are ready to respond to any aggressive actions and will defend their territorial integrity at all cost,” spokesman Enayatullah Khwarizmi said on social media platform X.Cross-border skirmishes in the region were reported by both sides into Monday afternoon, the latest in a string of such incidents on the disputed frontier.
The Taliban government “strongly condemns these attacks and calls this reckless action a violation of Afghanistan’s sovereignty”, Mujahid said in his statement.
“Such incidents can have very bad consequences which will be out (of) Pakistan’s control.”
Drones and jetsMalak Noor Khan, a tribal elder in the Sperah district of Khost, said he saw at least four explosives dropped from drones and jets and that multiple homes were destroyed, one with a woman and her children inside.
“When the drone came first, we all, including women and children, left our homes and went into the trees on the mountainside, it was very cold as there was snow on the ground,” he told AFP.
“All those targeted are refugees from Waziristan, they are not militants, they are not terrorists,” he said.
Large numbers of civilians fled Waziristan in 2014 when the Pakistani military launched an operation to wipe out militant bases in the tribal areas, many crossing over the border into Afghanistan.
A local government official in Pakistan’s border regions, who asked not to be named, told AFP residents had been instructed to evacuate the area amid the skirmishes.
“Announcements have been made in mosques to empty some areas in Kurram and North Waziristan as clashes between Pakistan and Afghanistan continue on and off at the border,” he added.
Increasing militancyAreas along the border have long been a stronghold for militant groups such as Pakistan’s home-grown Taliban group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which operates across the porous frontier with Afghanistan.
Analysts say militants in the former tribal areas have become emboldened since the Taliban’s return to power, with TTP waging a growing campaign against security officials.
The Taliban deny harbouring Pakistani militants.
In 2022, Taliban authorities said Pakistani military helicopters carried out strikes along the Afghan side of the border that killed at least 47 people, including 20 children.
Monday’s strikes came after seven Pakistani troops were killed in an attack by an armed group inside Pakistan’s territory on Saturday, for which the country’s President Asif Ali Zardari vowed retaliation.
“Pakistan has decided that whoever will enter our borders, homes or country and commit terror, we will respond to them strongly, regardless of who it is or from which country,” he said while attending the funeral prayers of the soldiers, who included a lieutenant colonel.
A Pakistani military statement said security forces also carried out an operation overnight Sunday in North Waziristan district, which borders Khost and Paktika, killing eight militants accused of being in involved in Saturday’s attack.
The TTP issued an official statement denying that Monday’s strikes targeted the group, saying their members operate from within Pakistan.
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Rights organizations claim that the planned repeal of the 2015 law will completely undermine women’s rights in the area.

The Gambia is on the verge of reversing legal safeguards against female circumcision for millions of women and girls, potentially making history as the first nation to do so.

The contentious bill, which would repeal a historic 2015 ban on female genital mutilation (FGM) and make the practice punishable by up to three years in prison, was approved by lawmakers in the West African nation’s parliament on Monday by a vote of 42 to 4.

Almameh Gibba, the lawmaker who presented the bill, contended that in the predominantly Muslim nation, the prohibition infringed upon the rights of citizens to “practice their culture and religion.”. “The purpose of the bill is to protect cultural norms and values as well as religious loyalty,” he stated.

However, human rights organizations and activists claim that the proposed law threatens to tarnish the nation’s reputation for respecting human rights and undoes years of progress.

FGM is “child abuse,” according to Jaha Marie Dukureh of Safe Hands for Girls, an organization working to eradicate the practice. She made this claim to Al Jazeera. She witnessed her sister bleed to death after the procedure and had the practice herself.

Many men are among those who support FGM in this nation. Women who have gone through this practice continue to tell these men about their suffering and pain on a daily basis, even though these men have different life experiences than us, the speaker stated.

The country of Gambia was split over the issue of lifting the ban imposed by the deposed president Yahya Jammeh, who ruled the nation with an iron grip for 22 years before being overthrown in 2016.

August saw the emergence of a heated debate after three women—the first to be found guilty under the law—were fined for performing forced marriage on eight premature girls.

Before a third reading, which is anticipated to take three months, the bill will now be referred to a parliamentary committee for additional examination. The committee has the authority to change the proposal.

dangers to health.

FGM is defined as “the partial or total removal of the female external genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons” by UNICEF, the UN agency for children.

According to a UNICEF report from 2021, 76% of Gambian women between the ages of 15 and 49 had undergone FGM.

It reduces sexual pleasure and can cause major health issues like bleeding, infections, infertility, and difficult childbirth.

“The bodies of girls belong to them.”. Before the discussion, the UN office in The Gambia on X stated: “FGM robs them of autonomy over their bodies and causes irreversible harm.”.

The human rights of women and girls are violated by the harmful practice of FGM. Our unwavering commitment is to aiding and defending the rights and dignity of every citizen, particularly women and girls, is represented by our 🌬🌲 efforts. Read the UN’s statement on the proposed Women’s Amendment Bill here: UN The Gambia (@UNGambia), February 23, 2024. ➵ pic . twitter . com/JNNMYjKCVJ.

According to a UNICEF report this month, the number of women and girls who have undergone FGM globally has climbed from 200 million to 230 million in just eight years.

As per the report, the majority of these women and girls—more than 144 million cases—were found in African nations. Asia came in second with over 80 million cases, and the Middle East had more than six million cases.

Groups advocating for women’s rights are concerned that The Gambia’s decision may create a hazardous precedent.

Divya Srinivasan, of the women’s rights NGO Equality Now, stated, “There’s the inherent risk that this is just the first step and it could lead to the rollback of other rights such as the law on child marriage… and not just in The Gambia but in the region as a whole.”.

Equality Now stated that criminalization was an important step in the fight against female circumcision, but pointed out that laws prohibiting the practice are in place in more than half of the 92 nations where FGM is practiced.

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